WASHINGTON – Less than two weeks after his re-election, President Barack Obama will become the first U.S. president to visit the once pariah nation of Myanmar, drawing attention to the country’s shift to democracy and highlighting what his administration regards as a marquee foreign policy achievement.
Obama will also travel to Cambodia, another first for a U.S. president, and to Thailand during the Nov. 17-20 trip. In Cambodia, the president will attend the East Asia summit in Phnom Penh and meet with leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
The symbolic highlight of the trip, no doubt, is Obama’s stop in Myanmar, also known as Burma, a country emerging from five decades of ruinous military rule. While there, Obama will meet with President Thein Sein and also with Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, the White House said.
Obama ended the longstanding U.S. isolation of Myanmar’s generals, which has played a part in coaxing them into political reforms that have unfolded with surprising speed in the past year. The U.S. has appointed a full ambassador and suspended sanctions to reward Myanmar for political prisoner releases and Suu Kyi’s election to parliament.
The East Asia Summit in Cambodia will also provide Obama with opportunities for possible sideline discussions with a number of fellow heads of state, including leaders such as outgoing Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. Also expected to attend are Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.